Rocking Playmobil Wedding

Many of us have put our making/hacking/building skills to use as a favor for our friends and family. [Boris Werner] is no different, he set about creating a music festival stage with Playmobil figures and parts for a couple of friends who were getting married. The miniature performers are 1/24 scale models of the forming family. The bride and groom are on guitar and vocals while junior drums.

Turning children’s toys into a wedding-worthy gift isn’t easy but the level of detail [Boris Werner] used is something we can all learn from. The video after the break does a great job of showing just how many cool synchronized lighting features can be crammed into a tiny stage in the flavor of a real show and often using genuine Playmobil parts. Automation was a mix of MOSFET controlled LEDs for the stage lighting, addressable light rings behind the curtain, a disco ball with a stepper motor and music, all controlled by an Arduino.

Unless you are some kind of Playmobil purist, this is way cooler than anything straight out of the box. This is the first mention of Playmobil on Hackaday but miniatures are hardly a new subject like this similarly scaled space sedan.

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Casting Metal Directly Into 3D Printed Molds

Casting metal and 3D printing go together like nuts and gum, and there are no shortage techniques that use the two together. Lost PLA casting is common, and sculptors are getting turned on to creating their works in plastic first before sending it off to the foundry. Now the folks at FormLabs have turned the whole ‘casting metal and 3D printer’ thing on its head: they’re printing sacrificial molds to cast pewter.

There are two techniques demonstrated in this tutorial, but the real winner here is printing a complete sacrificial mold for pewter miniatures. While this technique requires a little bit of work including washing, curing, and a bit of post-processing, you would have to do that anyway with anything coming out of a resin printer.

The material of choice for these molds is a high temp resin with a heat deflection temperature of 289 °C. Using a pewter alloy that melts at 260 °C, casting a metal miniature is as simple as pouring molten metal into a mold. Demolding might be a little finicky, but with a small screwdriver used as a chisel, it’s possible to get the cast newly parts out.

We’ve seen pewter casting with PLA, but the quality available from the Form resin printers is truly amazing and produces some great looking miniatures.

A Tiny Sharp MZ-80K That Really Works!

If you were a computer enthusiast in the late 1970s and early 1980s, one of your objects of desire may well have been a Sharp MZ-80K. This was an all-in-one machine from the Japanese electronics giant, and like Commodore’s PET line it included a CRT monitor, full alphanumeric keyboard and cassette tape drive in a smart console.

[Yasushi Enari] is a modeller of miniatures, and while at high school back in 1981 he made a perfect 1/5 scale model of an MZ-80K as an art project. Fast-forward to 2017, and with the help of a Raspberry Pi Zero, a miniature LCD composite video screen, and a Li-Po battery, he’s turned his 1981 model into a functioning computer.

Sadly he was not able to make his tiny 1981 plastic keyboard work, so an external Bluetooth unit is required to perform that function. And he makes no mention of running an MZ-80K emulator on the little machine, either. But the result is a work of art, and an odd collaboration between his adult and teenage self, something we are guessing most readers would be proud to own.

This isn’t the first tiny replica computer we’ve shown you, an Odroid W went into making this tiny Powermac from an American Girl doll’s toy computer.

Thanks [RC2014] for the tip.

Hackaday Links: May Day, 2016

Humble Bundle is a great way to fill up your Steam library – just pay what you want, and get some indie video games. The Humble Bundle is much more than video games, because No Starch Press just put up a bundle of books on hacking. No, there are no books about wearing balaclavas and using laptops with one hand. I haven’t written that book yet. There’s some choice books in this bundle, including [Bunnie]’s Hacking the XboxAutomate the Boring Stuff with Python, and Practical Malware Analysis.

The Raspberry Pi camera – the $25 add-on webcam that plugs directly into the Pi – is getting an upgrade. The original camera was a five Megapixel sensor that was EOL’d at the end of 2014. The Raspberry Pi foundation bought up a lot of stock, but eventually there would be a replacement. The new sensor is a Sony IMX219 eight Megapixel deal, available at the same price. We assume a NoIR version without the IR filter will be released shortly.

Here’s a little hardware review that doesn’t quite merit a full post. The Raspberry Pi Zero is great, and will be even better once production ramps up again and stock lands in warehouses. One problem with the Zero is the lack of USB ports, leading to at least two Hackaday posts with the exact same headline, ‘Yet Another Pi Zero USB Hub‘. Obviously, there’s a market for an easy to use USB hub for the Zero, and this company is stepping up to fill the need. The killer feature here is the use of pogo pins to tap into the USB differential lines, power and ground pads on the bottom of the Pi Zero. The USB hub is based on the popular FE 1.1 4-port USB hub controller, giving the Pi Zero four USB 2.0 ports. Does it work? Yeah, and it’s only $10. A pretty neat little device that will be very useful when Pi Zeros flood workbenches the world over.

It was announced in 2014, released in 2015, but the STM32F7 hasn’t seen a lot of action around these parts. A shame, because this is the upgrade to the famously powerful STM32F4 microcontroller that’s already capable of driving high-resolution displays through VGA, being an engine control unit for a 96 Ford Aspire, and being a very complex brushless motor driver. The STM32F7 can do all of these and more, and now ST is cutting prices on the F7’s Discovery Board. If you’re looking for a high-power ARM micro and don’t need to run Linux, you won’t do better elsewhere.

Need to reflow a board, but don’t have a toaster oven? Use a blowtorch! By holding a MAPP blowtorch a foot away from a board, [whitequark] was able to successfully reflow a large buck converter. There’s a lot of water vapor that will condense on the board, so a good cleaning afterward is a good idea.

A few weeks ago, [Mr. LeMieux] built a 360 degree, all-metal hinge. He’s been up to something a little more dangerous since then: building piles of mini table saws. Small table saws are useful for miniatures, models, and the like. [Mr. LeMieux]’s table saw is a piece of CNC’d aluminum, with a bearing and saw arbor that attaches to an electric drill. Dangerous, you say? Not compared to the competition. Behold the worst forty dollars I’ve ever spent. This Horror Freight mini table saw is by far the worst tool I’ve ever used. The bed was caked with streaky layers of paint, uneven, the blade wasn’t set at 90 degrees, and the whole thing was horrifically underpowered. Trust me when I say the CNC electric drill version is safer.

Saving Old Voices By Dumping ROMs

Some people collect stamps. Others collect porcelain miniatures. [David Viens] collects voice synthesizers and their ROMs. In this video, he just got his hands on the ultra-rare Electronic Voice Alert (EVA) from early 1980s Chrysler automobiles (video embedded below the break).

Back in the 1980s, speech synthesis was in its golden years following the development of TI’s linear-predictive coding speech chips. These are the bits of silicon that gave voice to the Speak and Spell, numerous video game machines, and the TI 99/4A computer’s speech module. And, apparently, some models of Chrysler cars.

IMG_0695We tracked [David]’s website down. He posted a brief entry describing his emulation and ROM-dumping setup. He says he used it for testing out his (software) TMS5200 speech-synthesizer emulation.

The board appears to have a socket for a TMS-series voice synthesizer chip and another slot for the ROM. It looks like an FTDI 2232 USB-serial converter is being used in bit-bang mode with some custom code driving everything, and presumably sniffing data in the middle. We’d love to see a bunch more detail.

The best part of the video, aside from the ROM-dumping goodness, comes at the end when [David] tosses the ROM’s contents into his own chipspeech emulator and starts playing “your engine oil pressure is critical” up and down the keyboard. Fantastic.

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DIY Rotary Tool

[Shashank] has a modest tool collection but is missing a rotary tool. He needed one for a project he was working on but didn’t think that it would get much use after the current project was completed. So instead of buying a rotary tool, he decided to make one to get the job done.

The project started out with a 40mm PVC pipe that would serve a the main body of the tool. Two MDF disks were cut to fit inside the pipe. One was used for mounting an RC vehicle brushless motor and the other was bored out to accept a pair of bearings. The bearings supported a modified pin vise that acts as the chuck for securing rotary tool bits. A 20-amp ESC and a servo tester control the motor’s speed and can get the motor up to 18,000 rpm.

Although this worked for a while, [Shashank] admits it did fall apart after about 20 hours of use. The MDF bearing mounts crumbled, thought to be a result of vibration due to mis-assignment between the motor and pin vise. He suggests using aluminum for the bearing mounts and a flexible coupling to connect the motor to the pin vise. If you’re interested in making your own rotary tool but don’t have any spare motors kicking around,  this 3D printed vacuum-powered rotary tool may be for you.

A Tiny Arcade Machine With Tinier Buttons

Building a MAME machine around a Raspberry Pi has been the standard build for years now, and tiny versions of full-sized arcade machines have gone from curiosity to commonplace. [diygizmo] just built one of these tiny arcades, but the fit and finish of this one puts it above all others. There’s a real, miniature joystick in there, along with 3D printed adapters for tact switches to make this one look like a lilliputian version of a full size standup MAME cabinet.

The entire enclosure is 3D printed, and most of the electronics are exactly what you would expect: A Raspberry Pi, 2.5″ LCD, and a battery-powered speaker takes up most of the BOM. Where this build gets interesting is the buttons and joystick: after what we’re sure was a crazy amount of googling, [diygizmo] found something that looks like a normal arcade joystick, only smaller. Unable to find a suitable replacement for arcade buttons, [diygizmo] just printed their own, tucked a tact switch behind the plastic, and wired everything up.

Add in some decals, paint, and the same techniques used to create plastic model miniatures, and you have a perfect representation of a miniature arcade machine.